World Building

by Diana Sherman '00

Diana Sherman ’00I nearly didn’t apply for my dream job.

The job posting said something along the lines of: “Writer Wanted at Video Game Company.” You know that feeling you get in your stomach when you’re at the top of a rollercoaster? That’s how I felt when I saw the posting. It was late 2008, shortly after I’d given up a stable job teaching at UC Irvine to move 300 miles away, to a city I’d fallen in love with.

I’d always loved video games and spent far too much time playing them, according to my parents. The job asked for a writer with publications, familiarity with science fiction, and dialog writing skills. Considering that most of my publications had been science fiction and that I’d also worked as a playwright, the job was perfect.

Except I worried that I wasn’t perfect. As soon as I saw that description, as soon as I realized this was what I wanted, I immediately started talking myself out of it. I didn’t have enough publications, I’d never worked in the industry before, a billion other people would be applying for the job, the chance of even getting an interview were a thousand to one, and on and on.

Fortunately, my boyfriend got home around that time and asked what I was looking at. “There’s probably no point in applying,” I told him. “I don’t have enough experience.” He narrowed his eyes and looked at me like he wasn’t sure who had replaced his girlfriend, but he’d like the brave one back, please. “Let them decide that. And remember, you’re a good writer. You can do this.”

I find it’s a common problem—among women, among writers, among more people than that. The sense of… illegitimacy. Of never—not ever—being good enough. I’ve seen it hundreds of times in my students and among my peers. And even though I know it isn’t true for them, I believed it was true for me. I sometimes still do. Doubt can strike any of us, no matter how successful or talented we are.

I was afraid of giving my best and being told that it was nowhere near good enough, and thanks awfully for trying. But I am also, thankfully, both deeply stubborn and surrounded by good people. I forced myself to apply for the job, even though I was terrified. And you know what?

I got the interview. And it went well. All of the years I’d put into writing short stories and plays and sending them out—and yes, getting them rejected more times than I got them sold—paid off.

A few agonizing weeks later, I got the job.

It was an entry-level writing job. At first I mostly did back-up work for the head writers on each game. World building. Character backgrounds. Press releases. Stuff that would probably never actually make it into the game, but was nonetheless necessary. I made a habit of getting everything done and being easy to work with. I put in my time.

A year and a half later, the company was working on a new game and needed a writer. The design team asked for me. In fact, the lead designer pulled me into his office, gave me a huge grin, and said, “I’ve bought you. I negotiated for your time, and I want you to be the writer on Neverwinter.” Remember that rollercoaster I mentioned earlier? This was another one of those moments. This time, though, I didn’t need anyone else to give me a kick in the pants. I just grinned and said, “Awesome.”

 

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